There are fruits, and then there is the mango. If you grew up in my part of the world then you'd instantly connect to the sentiment called mango. In our land (perhaps in our neighbouring country, Pakistan too), the arrival of summer is marked by the aroma of the fruit — and we wouldn’t like it any other way.
My maternal grandparents’ home in India had a mango tree with cheerful yellow flowers. When I was three, granny told me the tree was 200-year-old. I could not believe it. I spent many summers with the tree and its offerings. When the tree was watered, we'd request the help to keep the water running and drench us with the hosepipe. Under its shade, I learnt how to fall in love with a book. Oil too was rubbed on our (cousins, included) scalps in its shade. I still remember the taste of the mango pickles that mum, aunts, and granny prepared.
But, what I remember most vividly is that it was in those summer breaks I learnt how to appreciate the mango, for what it is. The eldest of the cousins sat on a pew teaching us how to know a good mango from the best — there was never a bad one. The tufts of the fruit stuck in between our teeth and the juice making a mess of our clothes, marking the end of the lesson.
Last evening, these memories came rushing back to me when a friend, who will be visiting India, asked us if we wanted him to bring something from back home. On most occasions, we'd say no, however this time around a unanimous request was made — Please, bring us mangoes from India.
I was not surprised, for the last couple of weeks, I have been (secretly) watching dear husband showing special interest towards the fruits aisles in the supermarkets. Another friend has been educating the staff on the correct pronunciations for the varieties — Badami, Kesar, Chaunsa, and of course Alphonso. I am hoping someone would generously offer us a jar of homemade pickle or chutney. Of course, I am looking forward to gulping down many glasses of fresh mango smoothie too. Even though, I have often been told that the best way to eat the fruit is: One, by holding it in between the palms and squeezing firmly, followed by puncturing, peeling, and licking the peel. Two, by eating every bit of the fruit’s skin on the seed! All other ways in my husband’s words are ‘unfruitful’ ways of indulging in the delight. As for me, the fruit cast its spell (and its many ways of eating) many, many summers ago.
As I wait in anticipation for my friend to return and fill up my shopping cart with what’s been exported and lined on the shelves here — the waft takes me back to the times gone by. I relive the emotion, with each bite. Oh, did I mention, the tree’s strongest branch held a rope and wooden plank? It was our makeshift swing.